Case Study - Geberit (uk) Ltd

John Barton - Personnel Director, Geberit Ltd - explains how an integrated approach to cultural change and employee development has led to positive behavioural changes within the organisation.

Geberit Ltd, a wholly-owned UK subsidiary of Swiss-based conglomerate, Geberit Group, manufactures a range of above and below-ground drainage systems, as well as hi-tech luxury bathroom flushing systems, fittings and accessories. The organisation was acquired by the Geberit Group in 1999, from previous owners Caradon, Following the acquisition and the appointment of a new Managing Director, it was quickly recognised that there were challenges facing the subsidiary. These included improving core management skills, teamwork and pace all of which should support the development of the UK business and its workforce in line with the parent group's requirements.

The challenge:
The Board identified - jointly and through facilitated discussion - that the UK business faced clear challenges, which were made more complex by a number of historical and cultural influences.

The Company had been extremely profitable and successful under Caradon; increased competition had meant many rounds of redundancies and the leaner workforce had been put through a very sophisticated and comprehensive TQM programme 10 years ago. The TQM programme produced many excellent frameworks and systems and the benefits were still evident throughout the business. e.g. an excellent communication framework and upward appraisal programmes which supported the TQM philosophy. The streamlining and quality/ system improvements that were necessary to maintain competitiveness within the UK marketplace resulted in a leaner business that was aligned to deliver short-term results in the manner required by its former parent.

Conversely, the new parent organisation had achieved market-leading status within the rest of Europe, and operated a more European style of business model, based on the long-term and including all stakeholders in organisational planning and delivery. There was an implicit requirement for the UK business to follow suit, not only in achieving market-leading status, but also to make fundamental changes to what had been a successful business model and style of operation.

Thus the challenge was viewed as both cultural (requiring changes to individual attitudes, beliefs and values) and strategic (requiring the development of core skills and competences). It also needed to be sustained so as to provide a framework of continuity for the organisation moving forward.

Our approach:
Having identified that action was required not only to create cultural change but also to transfer learning and develop core skills within the workforce, the senior team was then faced with the (usual) dilemma of:

  • Can we do it ourselves? or
  • Do we need outside help?

A significant amount of expertise already existed within the Company due to the earlier TQM and other development programmes, but we decided these would not be sufficient to meet the needs of the change. We examined a number of potential providers, before selecting the Morgan Leith Partnership for the assignment and we specified that we were looking for a sustained programme with both strategic and business dimensions.

The approach was to be that of a partnership, enabling open and honest discussion of issues at all levels, and providing Morgan Leith with an opportunity to work within the organisation and gain an essential understanding of the culture and behaviours.

After significant research and time spent with key members of the Board, the management team and the wider workforce, Morgan Leith proposed a development activity which based upon the following elements :

  • Strategic -able to support change within the business and act as a catalyst for the creation of an overall vision for the organisation.
  • Business-focused - activities needed to be personally relevant to participants in their specific role, and of benefit to the organisation in the delivery of the corporate vision.
  • Collaborative -involving the participation of the wider workforce, and gaining input from all levels of the organisation.
  • Stretching and innovative - participants should be able to use the base knowledge from the programme to develop creative solutions.
  • Structured (yet flexible) - any activities needed to be aligned with operational demands, yet provide time for individual learning.
  • Action-based - development activities needed to translate directly into work-based actions and demonstrate changes in behaviours and attitudes.

The parent organisation had a long-established coaching culture as well as specific coaching training programmes, and the Board wanted these introduced locally through the programme. Based on these programme principles, The Morgan Leith Partnership developed an integrated programme

  1. Raising individual and organisational awareness
  2. Identification of the current - and desired - culture of the organisation. (As distinct from the one identified under the old TQM programme)
  3. The development of a shared vision and identification of action-based activity to support its delivery. (Again, as distinct from the vision shared under the old TQM programme.)
  4. The understanding and development of core management principles and the transfer of skills

The initial phase of the programme focused on core development activity with two key groups:

  • The board
  • The management team

and Morgan Leith worked with individuals within these groups on two levels :

  1. One to one
  2. As part of the wider team

Using proven coaching methods, each member of the key groups received one-to-one coaching from experienced Morgan Leith coaches. These structured sessions focused on the development of key behaviours, and "cleared the way" for effective and sustained team-working and the development of a more fluent culture.

Using the information gained from the coaching, Graeme Leith (managing director of the Morgan Leith Partnership) was able to accurately define both cultural and development issues, and to remove any potential barriers to the wider programme.

Feedback from participants has been excellent, and there can be no doubt that the allocation of a personal coach has stimulated individual development, commitment and creativity. Additionally, "coachees" have started to develop their own teams in a similar manner, demonstrating the beginnings of a wider coaching culture within Geberit Ltd, and more in line with the parent company.

As part of the wider team:
During facilitated workshops, each of these key groups examined a range of core issues that - together - would support the development of an up-to-date shared vision (strategic thinking, team-working, communication, leadership, personal awareness and working styles) and cultural change. All of the workshops included a range of learning and discussion sessions, and were structured to support the development of identified skills and competences required to bridge the cultural and strategic gaps. The wider management group was well used to working together in such groups, but the Board - being new - was not.

Only once the key groups had established themselves as cohesive units, demonstrating increased awareness and understanding, did the two groups come together for a "combined" workshop.

The series of two "combined" workshops provided a forum for the whole management team to define core cultural and strategic issues, and enabled a wider transmission of change.

Our assessment:
There are visible changes in behaviour and performance across the organisation which are directly attributable to the development programme.

The Company has a well-established set of KPIs in place and this, coupled with SAP, monthly team meetings, communication cascades, and upward appraisal means that we can take the pulse of the organisation on a regular and consistent basis. Comparisons of data (pre and post development programme) suggest that key indicators - communication, team-work, building relationships - have improved during - and after - the delivery of the integrated programme.

Additionally, a series of evaluation tools and processes were built into the programme by the Morgan Leith Partnership, and we monitored the impact of the programme at four levels (Kirkpatrick model). These outputs were reported to the senior team at regular intervals, and progress against key measurements assessed.

Using these tools, it was possible to determine that:

  • 100% of participants felt the programme had supported the creation and delivery of a shared corporate vision
  • 96% of delegates felt the programme had improved their personal level of motivation
  • 100% of delegates felt the programme to have been useful to them in their current roles. Geberit recorded positive changes across all related key indicators (communication, team- working, building relationships) during and after the programme
  • 100% of participants felt that positive cultural change had been achieved

It is my firm belief that, because of the work completed via one-to-one coaching and through the group-specific workshops, the combined workshops were able to deliver significant strategic gains at a rate and pace that could not otherwise have been achieved, and these gains have translated into both sales and profit growth.

The development of skills and awareness through an integrated coaching and workshop programme has supported Geberit in a number of key areas: 1. Increased organisational awareness 2. Development of shared vision and a change in measured behaviours (which supports an identifiable cultural shift) 3. Development of core skills and competences - at both individual and corporate level 4. Identification of future learning requirements 5. Succession planning

For any organisation contemplating change - whether on a large or small scale - I would strongly recommend an integrated and sustained approach, where awareness and development of the individual is aligned to the overall development of the team.

Based on our success to date, the Geberit Ltd team has been asked to support similar initiatives within our parent group, and there is definitely more development in the Geberit pipeline.....